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Zostavax Vaccine Caused Chronic Pain, Lesions and Shingles, Lawsuit Claims

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The side effects of a Zostavax vaccine caused chronic pain, lesions and shingles after a Washington state woman was inoculated, according to allegations in a recently filed lawsuit.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Venus Calvert and her husband, Jason, in New Jersey federal court on July 21, naming the manufacturer of the popular shingles vaccine, Merck & Co., as the defendant.

Calvert indicates that she received a Zostavax vaccine injection in April 2012, for the prevention of shingles. However, in June 2017, she suffered a severe shingles outbreak, as well as chronic pain, rash, and lesions on various parts of her body.

According to allegations raised in the lawsuit, Merck used an “under-attenuated” version of the live virus in the vaccine, which can combine with the herpes zoster’s natural tendency to go dormant for decades before re-emerging, resulting in a more potent and persistent version of shingles than usual.

Zostavax was introduced in 2006, involving a single-dose injection that contains a live virus designed to vaccinate older adults against the development of shingles. However, the vaccine has been linked to a large number of reports involving similar complications, where individuals experienced severe and more persistent shingles outbreaks, as well as other infections and auto-immune disorders, shortly after exposure to Zostavax.

“A risk of using a live virus vaccine is that it is not weakened enough or ‘under-attenuated’,” the lawsuit states. “Under-attenuated live virus creates an increased risk of developing the disease the vaccine was to prevent.”

The complaint joins hundreds of other Zostavax vaccine lawsuits filed by individuals nationwide who experienced problems with Zostavax.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in the complaints filed by Howard’s children and other plaintiffs, the federal Zostavax litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings as part of a federal MDL, or multi-district litigation.

As lawyers continue to investigate and file additional claims on behalf of people who have experienced problems from Zostavax, the size of the litigation is expected to continue to grow over the coming months and years.

If Merck fails to reach Zostavax settlements or another resolution for the claims following bellwether trials, each individual lawsuit may eventually be remanded back to different U.S. District courts nationwide for separate trial dates in the future.

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